Twins climb out of the gutter to reach for stars

Independent.ie
The Gutter Twins The Ambassador, Dublin

You don’t need to be au fait with the torrid biographies of Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli to know they’ve been in the wars. It’s written on their scarred, time-furrowed faces.

Drug addiction, band implosions, tumultuous shifts in the musical topography — far from bringing these grunge warhorses to their knees, such travails have only made them stronger.

Both are now in their mid 40s, an age when most grunge veterans are happy to luxuriate in old glories. Not Lanegan and Dulli. As the Gutter Twins, they take the early 90s alt.rock template — howling self-doubt, 20-something angst, squalling guitars — and shroud it in romantic gloom. If the results, as writ large on debut album ‘Saturnalia’, suggest a collaboration between Nirvana and Edgar Allen Poe — well, that was probably the intention.

In concert, the two operate like split sides of the same brooding personality. Lanegan, who earned his reputation as frontman with Seattle band Screaming Trees, is glowering and stoic — with knuckle tattoos, piercing gaze and a cornered-animal growl.

Dulli is the human face of the duo, his voice a trembling falsetto, awash with middle-aged woe, and when he addresses the audience between songs he sounds, if not chipper, then vaguely appreciative of the applause.

Soaked in rumbling drums, bluesy guitars and hangdog washes of organ, the Gutter Twins’ clearly owe a great deal to Dulli’s ’90s soul-rock crew The Afghan Whigs.

The ‘X’ factor is Lanegan’s blood-cooling delivery. Singing in a hoarse whisper, he sounds like a man who has stared into the face of death and refused to blink (his dusted-down solo hit ‘Methamphetamine Blues’, in particular, seems to suck all the air from the room). It’s a chilling, rhapsodic turn, and one that stays with you long after the curtain has dropped.

– ED POWER

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